Loads of Learned Lumber

Monday, June 9, 2014

Trey Moody, _Thought That Nature_

THERE IS A vein of phenomenology in this, Trey Moody's first book, that reminded me of another recent volume by a young poet that I also liked, Robert Fernandez's Pink Reef; stylistically, as is also the case with Fernandez, Moody tends to zero in rather than zoom out, working in a relatively narrow range, but achieving intensity within it.

Moody's poems begin with something present, something occurring, but the poems' attention tends to bend towards the perceptual apparatus that brought that presence or occurrence before us, and then on to consideration of the awareness in which those perceptions seat themselves. Perceptions occurring in the present line up alongside remembered ones ("What memory performs as opposed to, / say, the sounds outside this window"). The organs of perception themselves are somehow a part of everything that takes place:

                In the history of human suffering
this must be what we meant:
                                      an eye or an ear
replaced with hard clay, or a plum.

We have some ability to affect what occurs, but not such that we can control what occurs:

                                  The river, crystal-clear

between the floorboards, under
my feet, and under your feet, and the way we stand may
or may not alter its course.

Consider the weather: we cannot control it, but we are capable of an infinity of adjustments to it (shelter, clothing); we are both a part of it and apart from it; as the adage famously has it, we can talk about it at any length, but do nothing about it.  Twelve of the pieces in Thought That Nature are titled "A Weather," each a prose poem (although a lot of unpatterned rhyming occurs) carefully noting hot and cold, moisture and dryness, and their effects on animals, plants, and ourselves.

Worth singling out are two instances in which Moody's fascination with perception and awareness combines itself tellingly with particular circumstances: "Dear Ghosts," a ten-poem sequence that put me in mind of Frost's "Hill-Wife," a narrative enigma involving a house, a landscape, and (I'm guessing) a marriage; and the middle section of the book, "Lancaster County Notebook," a kind of palimpsest in which the spaces in the poet's notes about his exploration of a new territory afford glimpses of the journals of Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery.

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